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It’s a science-fiction cliché: The alien hive mind. From the slugs in Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters to the Borg in Star Trek, the creatures who think as one — and who mean to wipe out our messy, savage individuality and absorb humanity into their collective — horrify us with the threat of losing our souls.

But what about an independent, self-sufficient alien that values freedom and autonomy even more than we do? Would this creature view us with horror?

It would notice that individual humans are rarely, well, individual. It would see that we’re almost always with families or co-workers or friends. It would see us gathering in marketplaces and nightclubs and theaters and sports stadiums.

It would see how we go out of our way to be together, via political rallies and Facebook groups and weddings (these humans not only bond together for the rest of their lives, they even gather together to celebrate it!).

It would look at our armies, and It would gape in confusion: “Humans are so devoted to each other that they herd together even to kill each other.”

It would look at our sex lives, and It would think, “They can’t perform even the basic function of reproducing without each other’s help. Their tiniest amoebas can do it, but they evolved away from it.”

And It would wonder, “Don’t the humans have any sense of self-reliance or individuality?”

Our desire to join together in pairs, families, teams, businesses, armies and other teams would intrigue the alien — but Its curiosity would grow into terror on discovering how often we try to pull each other into joining us and being like us.

The door-to-door missionaries and television preachers who seek converts. The activists demanding that others support their causes. The businesses advertising for new customers, the military services seeking recruits, the gods of fashion telling us how to dress, the frat boys talking sorority girls into debauched parties — “These humans never stop,” the alien would think. “It’s not enough that they don’t want to be alone — they never leave others alone, either.”

The alien would seek out the few of us who cut ourselves off from the rest of society: the paranoid survivalist who hides out in a mountain shack, the ascetic monk who prays alone in his cell, the bitter misanthrope who hates modern civilization and lives far off the grid. The alien is ready to admire them —

— until It sees that each of these humans believes that his way of life is the right one and that others should be like him.

The alien would think, with rising horror, “What if the humans discover me? What if they follow their pattern of needing others to behave like them and think like them?” The alien would fear our demands: embrace our political philosophy, fight alongside us in our army, and join our religion.

Even worse, we’d insist that we really like living the way we do. We’d say that the alien might be as happy as us . . . if It would just give our way a chance.

No wonder the UFOs haven’t landed yet.

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